Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Wedlake Bell LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Wedlake Bell LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘The work/life balance; flat structure; social life; quality of work and level of responsibility’, ‘the culture of the firm’, ‘the friendly culture and work/life balance’, ‘the work/life balance and full-service nature’, ‘the small trainee intake’, ‘I wanted exposure to a wide range of practice areas’, ‘it has a good reputation in the legal world’, ‘the firm’s expertise in private client and the opportunity to be part of a smaller trainee intake’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The work/life balance and the people (since everyone that I have met is friendly and approachable)’, ‘the culture – everyone across the firm is unbelievably friendly; I have made friends from all sorts of areas, including those I don’t work in’, ‘the really friendly culture, the little gestures which show that you matter to people’, ‘the approachability of (most) lawyers’, ‘we get a lot of support from the graduate recruitment manager who is really approachable and understanding’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The salary and the lack of transparency over seat choices and qualification positions’, ‘lack of organisation and structure (for example, with seat change/preferences)’, ‘there are limited options if the practice area you want to qualify into does not have a vacancy’, ‘the lack of transparency over pay’, ‘the fact that the LGBT+ network only started last year’, ‘the salary’

Best moment? ‘Being actively involved in a purchase’, ‘the Christmas party’, ‘achieving a great settlement outcome for our client on a matter’, ‘attending a tribunal at the Royal Courts of Justice’, ‘receiving an email from the managing partner praising me for the positive feedback a long-standing client had sent him about me’, ‘meeting some very interesting clients’, ‘running, managing and completing my own matter under limited supervision’

Worst moment? ‘Making an error on a document and working late under partner supervision to ensure it was corrected’, ‘feeling out of my depth due to a lack of training’, ‘making silly mistakes and feeling incompetent over them (rather than feeling like it is recognised that trainees will make mistakes, especially on a new task where there was limited instruction provided)’, ‘moving seats and feeling like I’m starting all over again!’

The Legal 500 Future Lawyers verdict on Wedlake Bell LLP

Wedlake Bell boasts a ‘good mix of practice areas’, with particular ‘strengths in private client and property’. Trainees are part of a small intake, resulting in ‘high-quality work and lots of responsibility’. One examples is ‘being trusted to effectively run my own transactions in the commercial property team; the department can be a great place for you to feel like a ‘proper lawyer’ for the first time as you develop your confidence’. The London firm has a ‘relatively flat structure’, and the culture is ‘notoriously friendly and sociable’. Respondents found Wedlake Bell ‘humane at each stage of the recruitment process’ and once they had begun their training contract, recruits were pleased to discover that ‘people at the firm respect that you are a human being and have a life’.  Wedlake Bell is a Future Lawyers Winner for job satisfaction, work/life balance and social life. There is a ‘conscious effort placed on socialising’; ‘the firm hosts a lot of out-of-work events’ and ‘there is no expectation to work late for no reason either’. Recruits complained that ‘there is sometimes a lack of clarity and communication when it comes to trainees’, and it feels as though ‘decisions are sometimes made without proper explanation’. Another gripe is that there is a ‘lack of structured training in some departments, which can leave you playing catch up’. A low point for one trainee was ‘working until 1am on a deal so we could complete but the deal didn’t close for another three days’, although ‘it’s worth pointing out that these moments are extremely rare’! ‘Feeling stressed and overwhelmed with my workload’ was also an unpleasant experience. The fact that the firm is ‘so unbelievably friendly’ no doubt helped on these occasions. To train at a highly-regarded, full-service firm where ‘who you are as a person matters’, consider Wedlake Bell.

A day in the life of... Bart Preston, trainee solicitor, Wedlake Bell LLP

Departments to date: Commercial property (planning); Private client; Family (current)

University: University of St Andrews

Degree: Medicine 2(1)

5.00am: Law is not my first career and in a previous role I was up very early each day, and I’m afraid the habit stuck. I turn on my coffee maker and wait for a pot to brew. My dog, Agnes, makes her way sleepily to my bed for morning cuddles. I listen to some calming music and pick up the book we’re reading in the firm’s book club while guzzling coffee. To be honest I’m not a huge fan of this one (Widowland by C J Carey) but I’m persevering.

6.15am: I take my dog out for her morning walk. I live in Hackney, about 25 minutes from work and next to a large park which is great for dogs.

7.15am: I get home, take a quick shower and then head to the gym for a spin class before work. We have a number of gyms the firm has agreements with offering good discounts on membership. Once done I cycle to work on the bike I bought through the Cycle to Work scheme.

8.45am: I arrive at the office and grab some eggs and mushrooms as it’s Monday and the firm puts on a great breakfast for us today! I take a look at my outstanding tasks from last week and at whether anything has come in overnight. We have a couple of court hearings in the next few weeks so it’s common for counsel (the barrister we instruct) to send documents for urgent review. I have a quick chat with my supervisor who sits next to me, and we agree to meet later in the day for a training session on financial remedies in divorce hearings.

9.30am: I have a client meeting with a senior associate in my team and the consultant (a senior lawyer with a lifetime of experience in family law). It involves someone going through a divorce and hoping to settle the financial side of things. The skill is to assist the client in achieving a successful outcome, and help them make reasonable compromises if it’s in their longer term best interests. My task is to take an attendance note which has to be as detailed and accurate as possible, and draw up a list of action points.

11.15am: It’s a busy morning: we have another client meeting, this time a Teams call. Our client is seeking to increase contact with his son, so we discuss what the proposal will be at the next court hearing in a week’s time. Following on from this I need to research which agencies can supervise handover sessions and assess the costs involved. I’ll also need to complete the relevant referral forms when the court and our client agrees to the arrangement.

12.30pm: I pop upstairs for some soup which the firm provides in return for a small donation to our annual charity. I see some friends from my first seat in commercial property and sit with them for a chat. Wedlake Bell is a really friendly place to work, and I’ve made some close friends here already.

1.00pm: I have an hour-long teach-in with my supervisor who makes it very easy to ask what feel like silly questions. I make notes of the session in a OneNote file I keep of all training throughout my training contract so that I remember to include it in my training record.

2.15pm: After catching up briefly with one of the partners in my last seat, private client, I head back to my desk. I need to lodge a bundle with the court by 4.00pm for a hearing we have in two days’ time. After this I work on finalising a note for a client from last week, and drafting to the other side on a matter currently in court for my supervisor to approve.

3.30pm: I grab a quick coffee from the shop across the road and come back for another client meeting with my supervisor; we have a meeting with a client who needs to complete a Form E which is a financial statement presented to the court within divorce proceedings. It is a wide-ranging discussion, at times emotional, but the client was hugely appreciative of our assistance. I take notes of prescient points.

5.30pm: I get back to my desk and spend some time clearing my inbox of some small internal issues. I need to complete and return two letters of engagement for experts we are instructing to value some assets within proceedings.

6.15pm: I leave the office and make my way to an organisation I am a member of to listen to a former prime minister talk about polarisation in politics. Days in the family team vary in length, but it’s generally possible to make plans in the evening and enjoy everything London has to offer!

About the firm

The firm: Independent law firm Wedlake Bell is headquartered in London. The firm is renowned for its family law and private client practice, as well as for its real estate work. Wedlake Bell advises clients ranging from FTSE 100 companies to owner-managed businesses and ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

The clients: Bank of Ireland; Countrywide; Honest Burgers; HSBC; Hugo Boss UK; Kuehne + Nagel; Lacoste; Millennium Hotels; Royal Academy of Arts; Tesco Stores.

The deals: Acting for YoBike on licensing arrangements relating to its patented YoBike bicycle rental system and mobile app; advised OKI Europe on the employment elements of the reorganisation of its EMEA operations; advised Warburg HIH Invest on lease transactions with H&M and Sushi Mania at a retail scheme in Cambridge; acted for Taylor Wimpey and Jaynic Suffolk Park in relation to the promotion agreement and construction documents for a 90-acre greenfield site in Suffolk; obtained injunctions for Fresh Wharf Estates Limited against boat owners who have moored their boats adjacent to land which is set to undergo a major residential development; assisted Pearson Lloyd Design with contractual negotiations with a major European airline relating to the design of the business class seating and cabin interior of a new fleet of Boeing 777-9 aircraft.

Senior partner: Kim Lalli

Managing partner: Martin Arnold

Who we are: We have strong expertise in real estate, private client, dispute resolution and business services. Our driving force is to empower our clients by providing quality legal advice, insight and intelligence that enables them to achieve their goals, whether personal or business. We are large enough to advise on the most complex matters, but small enough to ensure that our people and our work remain exceptional and dynamic.

What we do: With 78 partners supported by over 200 lawyers and support staff, we operate on a four practice group model: private client, business services, real estate and dispute resolution.

What we’re looking for: We are looking for self-motivated trainees – individuals with potential who will thrive in a small, close-knit trainee intake. The key areas that we focus on are strong technical skills, enthusiasm and a strong work ethic.

What you’ll do: The training contract consists of four six-month seats in four different practice areas. Trainee solicitors are closely supervised but have client contact and responsibility from day one.

Trainees are allocated a trainee buddy and a mentor to help them settle into life at the firm. Alongside their day-to-day role, the trainees will also attend a bespoke learning and development curriculum which covers core skills to complement their learning.

Wedlake Bell runs firmwide events (such as firm socials and the annual walking trip) which trainees are encouraged to participate in.

Perks: Pension, health insurance, dental insurance, personal health and wellbeing support including virtual GP service, life assurance, season ticket loan, corporate gym membership, additional holiday scheme, give as you earn, cycle to work scheme, employee mortgage advice, birthday leave, subsidised firm-wide trips.

Sponsorship: PGDIP, SQE funding and maintenance grants available, subject to terms and conditions of any offer. Wedlake Bell will be working with the University of Law as our SQE preparation course provider. PGDIP/PGDL course sponsorship is only for those completing the SQE route who have not yet begun the course.

Diversity, inclusion and well being initiatives

Wedlake Bell is committed to being a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Wedlake Bell runs a mentoring scheme and hosts wellbeing events throughout the year. The firm offers mental health and wellbeing support with access to therapy services, an employee assistance programme and trained mental health first aiders.

The firm works with Rare Recruitment and also offers work placements through Inspire, the Law Society Diversity Access Scheme, City University Micro-placements and 10,000 Black Interns. The firm has also built links with schools and universities such as King Solomon Academy, Middlesex University and London South Bank University.

The firm also has active internal networks and a diversity and inclusion committee. Recent sessions include a series covering micro-aggressions in the workplace and neurodiversity.

Percentage of female associates: 62%

Percentage of female partners: 35%

Percentage of BAME associates: 26%

Percentage of BAME partners: 15%